Good transport can bring social, economic and health benefits to local authorities and the wider community, according to Ewan Wallace, chair of the Society of Chief Officers of Transportation in Scotland (SCOTS) and head of Transportation Infrastructure Services at Aberdeenshire Council.
Transportation solutions should bring benefits
In an interview at Low Carbon Scotland 2015, Wallace said that transportation solutions are all about bringing real benefits, whether it is reducing the impact on congested urban networks or providing good connectivity in the rural areas (of which there are a lot in Scotland). However, he cautions that it’s not possible to simply impose a solution on communities, and community engagement is crucial.
“We can all think of instances of a solution that we’ve tried to impose on a community but that hasn’t worked. We have to be really engaged with communities, through community planning partnerships – go and do your homework and find out what the real issues are, and then design the interventions that meet those needs.”
SCOTS represents Scotland's 32 local authorities and seven regional transport partnerships, and provides input and advice on transportation issues to various bodies including the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities and the Scottish government.
Wallace also notes the importance of behavioural change to transport, saying it has been at the heart of SCOTS’s agenda since its formation almost 30 years ago. “We want to learn from things that have worked well. So when we talk to communities we want to make the benefits real and say to them ‘if you change this, this is how it will work for you’.”
Electric vehicles bring low carbon benefits
As an example Wallace cites the health and low carbon benefits of electric vehicles, saying that with economic benefits to local authorities there will also be economic benefits to the wider community.
Matthew Lumsden, managing director of the consultancy Future Transport Systems, echoes this view in his Low Carbon Scotland interview, saying there is a significant increase in the number of EVs coming on UK roads and that they are expected to make a big impact on the quality of air in city centres as well as more generally to the low carbon, low fossil fuel environment.
“We have seen more sales as different models have come on to the market so it’s not been a case of people not wanting EVs but wanting ones they are comfortable with,” Lumsden says. He adds: “Now we need to ensure the infrastructure is developing at the right pace and the right level of sophistication to keep up with rest of world.”
Requirements for EV drivers
Lumsden notes that one of the principal requirements of EV drivers is for charging infrastructure that includes a service provision level rather than simply being functional, which is starting to occur. The second is to overcome range concern and he says the availability and growth of the use rapid charging is giving confidence to drivers, even if they are not making those journeys.
“Anecdotally there is evidence that rapid charging has helped promote EVs and we are seeing people who have stopped planning their charging and go to a rapid charger when needed.”
However, the impact of rapid charging on the grid is more significant, and Lumsden says that to manage this impact, his company is developing a storage solution using 2nd life EV batteries (about 20% degraded). “We expect to install these in places where it may be too expensive to upgrade the grid and also it will allow the siting of more chargers there.”
Gas-powered vehicles an option
Another low carbon option over and above EVs is the LPG and LNG powered vehicles, Holly Sims, corporate affairs manager at Calor Scotland and director, Autogas Limited, reminds – and they are available now, with no additional infrastructure requirements.
“LPG has been used as a vehicle fuel for the last 15-20 years and there are over 1,400 refuelling points in Britain,” says Sims. “LPG has on average 20% lower carbon emissions than petrol or diesel and its cost is around half the price, so there is also an economic incentive for motorists.”
Sims adds that existing vehicles’ engines can be converted to run on LPG and the driving experience remains unchanged as the engine switches to run on the appropriate fuel at the optimum times.